BRISTOL, Tenn. (WJHL) – TCAT Elizabethton students are set to build a full three-bedroom, one-bathroom home at Bristol Motor Speedway this race weekend.

Students from the Tennessee College of Applied Technology at Elizabethton are participating in the Appalachia Service Project’s Race to Build competition for the first time.

They will compete against teams from the University of Nebraska and Kent State University. Each will work almost non-stop to build a home for a Tri-Cities family in need over the course of the race weekend.

Fourteen TCAT students in the Building Construction Technologies program will put their skills to the test starting Thursday.

On Wednesday, the team loaded up their tools and gear at TCAT’s Instructional Service Center in Kingsport.

The students are well-prepared, but they expect a challenge.

TCAT officials said it is an opportunity to learn but also demonstrate their training. They said the students will eventually meet some demanding workforce needs in the Tri-Cities housing sector.

TCAT Elizabethton President David Hicks said the program was designed to get more workers in the home construction field as new housing developments continue to grow in the market.

“We had people in the industry, homebuilders, officials from the cities and counties come to us and say that there’s such a shortage of the workforce in building construction,” Hicks said. “That was why the program was started in the spring of 2022.”

Hicks said the program gives students everything they need to find a job in housing construction.

He said after the program’s first four students finished their learning, they quickly found a job.

“It is such a demand for people to have a foundational skillset in the construction trades that getting them a job is not a problem,” Hicks said.

TCAT Elizabethton instructor Jamel Foster said the three-day project will give students a new perspective on the home-building process.

Most of the students have not completed a full-size home before, but Foster said these students are ready for the challenge.

“They’re going to be exposed to the entire scope of work in getting a house dried in, and they’re only going to have three days to complete it,” Foster said. “I definitely think they know everything they need to to be able to be able to complete and finish this house. They’ll be prepared.”

Aiden Dougherty is one of the students on the build team. He said he is ready for the learning opportunity the build presents.

“It gives us that real-life experience,” Dougherty said. “Hands-on is a lot. It teaches you a lot more than bookworm.”

It’s a chance for these students to show off their skills. Foster said those skills can get them hired through TCAT’s advisory committee, which works with homebuilders to meet industry needs.

“Students right now are getting hired faster than we can get them out the door,” Foster said.

Dougherty said he’s confident his work in the Race to Build will look great on a resume.

“Best case scenario, we win,” Dougherty said. “Then you can go to somebody look at them in the eyes and say, “Hey, we built a house in three days and we won.”

Construction in the Race to Build starts at 10 a.m. Thursday morning.

Teams will have until 4 p.m. Saturday to finish the home.